Social Sciences

Besant Hill’s History and Social Sciences Department strongly encourages students to think critically about their subject materials, examining historical and author bias with a thoughtful eye.

By examining history and social sciences critically, we strongly echo our school’s philosophy that we are all life-long learners, using the Socratic method of discovery. The courses offered in this department are Cultural Geography, World History, U.S. History and Honors U.S. History, AP US Government and Politics, Art History, and Psychology. The department challenges students to examine history, psychology, and art through a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach, incorporating many supplementary materials and texts that illustrate a myriad of peoples’ perspectives.

Course Descriptions

U.S. History

US History is an intermediate level survey course of American history. The first semester is largely focused on domestic policy and isolationist America, whereas the second semester delves into imperialist, expansionism, foreign policy, and the wars and politics of the 20th Century. Goals for this course are for students to understand, evaluate, and analyze primary and secondary source material in order to effectively create solutions to issues that the United States faces today.

World History

World History at Besant Hill School is an intermediate level course designed to investigate the development of the world’s civilizations by studying their political and economical systems, as well as their social, cultural, and religious contributions to history.  Attention is paid to both Western and non-Western cultures, as well as the relationship between the two.   Through this course students will gain insight into past events and see how those events have led to current world situations.  Focus will also be placed on developing the skills and knowledge necessary to communicate effectively in an academic environment.

Cultural Geography

This entry-level course looks at culture and geography through different thematic lenses. Cultural Geography allows us to look at the changing world, the global village, how geography has a cultural and societal response, and contains an interdisciplinary approach to history. Students should think of this course not just as a history of cultures, or memorizing maps, but rather students will approach this class constantly questioning and incorporating different disciplines that may include: an environmental, sociological, political, and economic perspective. This course’s focus is to develop skills needed for a successful high school career and development of critical learners.

AP U.S. History

Advanced Placement United States History at BHS is a chronological and thematic survey course in United States History covering the time period from Colonial America (1492) to contemporary America (2000s). “The AP program in United States History is designed to provide students with the analytical skills and enduring understandings necessary to deal critically with the problems and materials in United States history.

The program prepares students for intermediate and advanced college courses by making demands upon them equivalent to those made by full-year introductory college courses. Students should learn to assess historical materials―their relevance to a given interpretive problem, their reliability, and their importance―and to weigh the evidence and interpretations presented in historical scholarship. An AP United States History course should thus develop the skills necessary to arrive at conclusions on the basis of an informed judgment and to present reasons and evidence clearly and persuasively in an essay format (”  That said, the overriding theme throughout the year involves American diversity and changing political and social reactions to that diversity.

The course will emphasize key themes in United States history including: American diversity, identity and culture, demographic change, economic transformations, the environment, globalization politics, reform, religion, slavery and its legacies in North America and war and diplomacy.

Comparative Religion

Comparative World Religions is an upper division semester long elective course designed to introduce and reinforce an understanding for the plurality and diversity of the world’s religions.  This course of study explores converging historical origins and mythological narratives that emphasize common themes in the world religions, rather than theological differences.

AP Human Geography

Students will investigate the patterns and processes that have molded the human understanding, use, and alteration of Earth’s surface. Students will explore human social organization and subsequent environmental consequences through landscape analysis and application of spatial concepts. Finally, students will understand the methods and tools used by geographers, including maps and statistical tables.

Modern World History

Modern World History at Besant Hill School is an upper division semester long elective course that introduces students to significant issues and events in our society and their historical roots.  The primary purpose of this course is to give students the skills and knowledge to accurately evaluate and analyze the complex world around them so that they may ultimately affect change.  Combining a unit based curriculum and a weekly media based activity, students will evaluate the present world from a political, economic, socio-cultural, and historical perspective.

The interdisciplinary nature of this course will require students to draw from their knowledge of English, math, history, science, and the arts.  And with an understanding of the complex challenges we face, students will be asked to defend their beliefs and to create solutions that will one day change this world for the better.

Honors World History

The purpose of World History at Besant Hill School is to expose students to the events, cultures, and people that have shaped our world today. Throughout the academic year, students will investigate major civilizations from both western and eastern hemispheres, exploring their origins, art, culture traits, advancements, and leaders. World History Honors students will also practice the critical thinking skills necessary to adapt to and engage in the rapidly changing world as global citizens. Some of these skills include: analyzing evidence, interpretation of evidence, comparison, contextualization, causation, recognition of continuity and change over time, periodization, and argumentation.

At the completion of this course, students will have demonstrated academic skills necessary to succeed in a rigorous academic environment. Some of these skills include: the ability to comprehend nonfiction text from a variety of sources, the ability to acquire and retain information from a lecture using a variety of note-taking techniques, the ability to formulate original ideas based on academic research, the ability to use both primary and secondary sources to generate defensible arguments, and the ability to execute multiple research-based written works in MLA format with proper citations.

AP Economics

The purpose of the AP course in microeconomics and macroeconomics is to give students a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to the functions of individual decision makers, both consumers and producers, within the economic system, as well as providing students with a thorough understanding of the principles of economics that apply to an economic system as a whole. It places primary emphasis on the nature and functions of product markets and includes the study of factor markets and of the role of government in promoting greater efficiency and equity in the economy. In addition, this course places particular emphasis on the study of national income, price-level determination, and also develops students’ familiarity with economic performance measures, the financial sector, stabilization policies, economic growth, and international economics.